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Accepted Paper:

Visualising maternal loneliness and the liminal identity of new motherhood: documenting everyday labour and journey making as an autoethnographic resistance to narratives of maternal madness.  
Rosie Reed Hillman (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Paper short abstract:

In documenting the emotional and sensory quality of maternal loneliness, this paper outlines how a visual autoethnographic process can be a way to describe and critique socio cultural realities and experience of new motherhood.

Paper long abstract:

I explore the loneliness of new motherhood through a presentation of my visual autoethnographic research. Asking questions about the sensory quality of maternal loneliness, this paper outlines a process I term emotional thick description as a way to describe and critique socio cultural realities and experience of new motherhood.

Focusing particularly on mother’s everyday tasks and labours as a lens to explore loneliness, I examine my own experience of day-to-day routines in the home, as well as the everyday theatre of leaving the house to go out with my daughter. I examine maternal identity making in these contexts using theories of becoming (Braidotti, 2002); performativity (Butler, 1990); and draw together feminist existential thinking (Battersby, 2006) to critically develop anthropological ideas about being and place (Ingold, 2000). By scrutinising the sensory and emotional interiorities of maternal identity making in these ways, I elucidate the challenges many women face in being at home in and feeling part of the world once they become mothers.

I will present photography and short film excerpts from my research to highlight how visually documenting women's everyday lives as mothers can challenge narratives that individuate and make deviant their experience of distress, struggle and isolation (Kristeva, 2005). My discussion concludes drawing from mad studies (Sweeny and Taylor, 2021) to argue that maternal loneliness is often pathologised with a mental health diagnosis rather than this isolation from community, body and self being understood as a symptom of patriarchal socio-economic pressures and structures women face in contemporary western culture.

Panel P013c
Motherhood Transformed and Transforming; Discussing the role of motherhood(s) and mother work in constructing futures of hope III
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -